LAKEWOOD, CA–Hundreds of tenth and eleventh grade history students gathered in the Lakewood High School Library on Monday to participate in a discussion on genocide with members of the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF).
The discussion covered a range of issues, from the basic history of the Armenian Genocide to how its denial put into motion a cycle of genocide that has characterized the 20th century, as the bloodiest in history. The recurrence of that cycle today in the 21st century was underscored as the root cause of the genocide currently taking place in Darfur.
Lakewood High teacher Angela Wood, who had taken the lead on teaching the Armenian Genocide in her history classes, reached out to the AYF to organize the discussion with class. “We’ve been teaching WWI History to our students for many years and seeing as the Armenian Genocide occurred at this time, we’ve always wanted our students to be aware of this issue,” she explained.
Vache Thomassian, the AYF’s chairperson, led the discussion covering the five phases of the Genocide, focusing on how Turkey’s ongoing denial of its crime continues to provide genocidal regimes with ample precedents for how to carry out their crimes.
“The denial aspect is arguably the most disheartening, because not only has the Turkish government committed the crime, but now they are trying to rewrite our ancestor’s history by distorting the truth, and this has led to other perpetrators believing that they can get away with doing the same thing,” said Thomassian. “We are thankful that Ms. Wood has allowed for us to come here today to talk about the reasons and the means that our generation has confronted in order to prevent the government from completing this act of inhumanity.”
The presentation itself lasted for 4 class periods, with Thomassian and fellow AYF member Arek Santikian speaking to over 200 mostly non-Armenian students about the evils of genocide.
“It was amazing how motivated these students were by the discussion,” exclaimed Santikian, adding that many were anxious to find out ways they could make their voices heard on the issue.
Lakewood’s congressional representative, Linda Sanchez, is currently not signed on as a cosponsor of the Armenian Genocide Resolution, H.Res.252. Santikian urged the students to call their congresswoman and share their concern over the cycle of genocide.
“The best way for any individual in America to get their voice heard is to reach out to their representative in congress and urge them to do the right thing,” he said.
At the end of every discussion, Thomassian and Santikian passed out fliers, sponsored by the Armenian National Committee of America, detailing all the simple ways to reach out to congressional representatives on this and other issues.
The ANCA on Monday launched a nationwide online and print campaign, urging concrete action to end the Darfur genocide and full U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Titled the "Fierce Urgency of Now," the grassroots campaign gives anti-genocide activists across the U.S. an opportunity to learn more about the worsening humanitarian situation in Darfur and how this atrocity fits into the cycle of genocide that started with the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1923. Individual’s can use the campaign’s website to send webfaxes to members of congress and President Obama.
Founded in 1933, the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) has grown to become the largest and most influential Armenian American youth organization; with chapters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world. Inspired by our past and motivated by the needs of the future, the AYF actively strives to advance the social, political, educational and cultural awareness of all Armenian youth.